Introducing the Tipping Points Project. April 30, 2018.
In late 2016, Randall Bass, vice provost for education at Georgetown University, asked me to help design and teach a pilot project at Georgetown University that would experiment with a new way of introducing climate change to undergraduate students. The Core Pathway on Climate Change initiative, as we came to call it, allowed students to mix and match seven-week courses - "modules" - to find their own pathway through the scholarship of climate change. More
North Atlantic Right Whales From Their Medieval Past To Their Endangered Present. March 21, 2018.
2017 was a calamitous year for the North Atlantic right whale. The final count of the 2017 "Unusual Mortality Event" was eighteen animals. Fourteen North Atlantic right whales were found dead from the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to Cape Cod between June and December, with an additional four strandings and entanglements through the year. More
A Frigid Golden Age: Can the Society of Rembrandt Teach Us About Global Warming? February 27, 2018.
Earth’s climate is changing with terrifying speed. Humanity has strengthened a greenhouse effect that has now warmed the planet by roughly one degree Celsius. The scale, speed, and causes of today’s global warming have no precedent, but of course natural forces have always changed Earth’s climate. We now know that these changes were big enough to shape the fates of past societies. Most confronted disaster, but a few seemed to prosper in spite of – and in some cases because of – climate changes. Perhaps the most successful of all emerged in the coastal fringes of the present-day Netherlands. More
Icebreaking in the Gulf of Bothnia: A Passenger’s Perspective. January 11, 2018.
This past winter I was fortunate to join the Arctia Otso icebreaker in the Gulf of Bothnia, Finland, from March 2 to March 24, 2017. I had sailed the Northwest Passage aboard the Canadian Coast Guard ships Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Louis S. St-Laurent in 2015. Going to Finland to travel on an icebreaker for 20 days was my next big step as a Canadian scientist. More
Looking Back, Looking Forward: A Historian Goes to COP23. December 21, 2017.
I joined the most recent UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn with a delegation from Monash University, which also included legal scholars, renewable energy specialists, and science communicators. The opportunity to observe and participate in the activities that accompany the negotiations was too good to pass up. More
Volcanoes, Climate Change, and Society: History and Future Prospects. November 30, 2017.
In June 1783, the residents of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, an Icelandic village, watched as the water of their local river Skaftá vanished and, days later, was replaced by a “fiery flood” of lava. They could not have imagined that this event would have consequences halfway around the globe, all the way to eastern Africa. More
New Worlds of Climate Change: The Little Ice Age and the Colonization of America. October 13, 2017.
In August 1559, the aspiring conquistador Tristán de Luna y Arellano brought some five hundred soldiers and a thousand colonists from New Spain to a settlement on Pensacola Bay, Florida, which he declared “the best port in the Indies.” The viceroy of New Spain reported to the king “the port is so secure that no wind can do them any damage at all.” Even as he wrote, a hurricane was entering the Caribbean, poised to devastate Puerto Rico. A week later, it roared into Pensacola Bay. Tristán de Luna had no experience of tropical storms that could overwhelm even the strongest harbors. More
Weather, Climate Change, and Inuit Communities in the Western Canadian Arctic. October 5, 2017.
Global climate change brings with it local weather that communities and cultures have difficulty anticipating. Unpredictable and socially impactful weather is having negative effects on the subsistence, cultural activities, and safety of indigenous peoples in Arctic communities. More
“Lighthouses in the Empire”: History of Ice and Place in the “Mountains of the Moon," Uganda. September 9, 2017.
Mount Emin. Mount Baker. Mount Stanley. It is rare for a location to excite so many disparate sensibilities, but the post-colonial scholar, glaciologist, botanist, and climate scientist find themselves welcome bedfellows in the Rwenzori Mountains of central Africa. More
Will Climate Change Cause Conflict in the Arctic? Searching for Answers in the Past. July 25, 2017.
In article after article, academics, policy analysts, and journalists have told a similar story: climate change, by melting Arctic ice, is unlocking resources that could soon trigger war in the far north. They argue that the race to extract the reservoirs of oil and natural gas that lie under the vanishing ice will provoke hostilities between nations eager to claim the bonanza. More
Weather Markets: Accounting for Climate in Early American Agri-business. June 22, 2017.
When Monsanto spent $1 billion in 2013 to purchase Climate Corporation, its climate data, and its algorithms for using machine learning to predict weather, everyone from farmers to The New Yorker concluded that agri-business believed the climate science consensus: climate change is real and it introduces real risks to business. More
“Bread or Blood”: Climate Insecurity in East Anglia in 1816. May 17, 2017.
The recent bicentenary of the Year without a Summer (1816) has brought that unusual intersection of geological forces, changing climate, and human history into focus again. The radical cooling brought on by Tambora’s eruption seems especially significant as modern societies face their own dramatic climate change. More
A Conversation with Dr. Bathsheba Demuth: Capitalism, Communism, and Indigenous Communities in a Changing Arctic. April 6, 2017.
In the seventh episode of the Climate History Podcast, Dr. Dagomar Degroot interviews a fast-rising star in the field of environmental history: Dr. Bathsheba Demuth, assistant director of HistoricalClimatology.com and the Climate History Network. Dr. Demuth is an assistant professor at Brown University, where she specializes in the history of Arctic lands and seas. More
These Early Humans Prospered During What Should Have Been a Devastating Volcanic Winter. Gizmodo
Scientists Find Evidence of Paint, Complex Tools and Climate Chaos at the Dawn of Humanity. Washington Post
Trove of Documents Shows Historical Ferocity of Recent Storms. Boston Globe
11,000 Years Ago, Our Ancestors Survived Abrupt Climate Change. CNN
Faced With Drought, the Pharaohs Tried (and Failed) to Adapt. NY Times
Winter 2018. A new climate history working group, the Sun's impact on climate, and cold golden ages.
Fall 2017. Famines, volcanoes and ancient violence, and the frigid conquest of North America.
Spring/Summer 2017. Disaster memories, climate and conflict, and controlling nature.
Winter 2017. Trump's election, medieval climate history, new awards and conferences.
Fall 2016. PAGES, the IPCC, and Frankenstein's monster.
Summer 2016. Volcanoes, droughts, and the Maunder Minimum.
Spring 2016. The Spanish Empire and global cooling, annual meeting at the ASEH conference.
Winter 2016. New financial support and the Old World Drought Atlas.
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